In summary, it can be said that Cambodia is not an easy country for vegetarians, as this is a strange concept in this country where meat consumption dominates. But there are always options like noodle soups, curries and some snacks that help to get around the situation!
As in Lao, the noodle soups continued to be present but the quality decreased: not only are the broths less aromatic, but sometimes the noodles are made from dry pasta or even instant noodles. The usual dish of aromatic herbs and vegetables that accompanied these soups in the neighbouring country, is often absent here.
In Cambodian food, there is a strong influence of Chinese and Vietnamese cuisine, which is visible in the many restaurants serving “phò”, the traditional vietnamese noodle soup.
Another influence of China is the hot pots, which are very popular among Cambodians (as in many other Southwest Asian countries), especially in cities and particularly on weekends, where these restaurants are filled with families and groups of friends who share this meal, consisting of a pan with a boiling broth, where pieces of meat are floating, which remain hot on the table with the use of a mini gas stove, and where the various side dishes, such as cabbage, fresh herbs, pasta, pieces of meat and also viscera…
These noodle soups, prepared at the moment, can be made in the vegetarian version, however, although meat is not added, there is no increase in the amount of vegetables that usually come down to a handful of soy sprouts and a few cabbage leaves. As for the broth that serves as the base for these soups, almost transparent and with a light flavour, it is likely to contain products of animal origin in its preparation.
The so-called rice soups, popular as a morning meal, although a little boring, are also an option for vegetarians, since you can always order without meat, alternatively adding soy sprouts.
More advisable in terms of a vegetarian diet are fry-noodles, where the rice noodles are stir fry with some vegetables and egg and seasoned with mysterious sauces.
Coffee is usually served with ice and is almost always sweetened with condensed milk. The preparation is in everything similar to that found in Vietnam, with the boiling water being poured over the coffee in a kind of metallic filter, placed on the top of the glass. Often the coffee is already made, in a very concentrated dose, which is then diluted in hot water when the coffee is served. The flavour is smooth but with a particular flavour, but it is necessary to use a certain communication skill to avoid the popular condensed milk, which totally crushes the original flavour of the coffee.
The curries continue to be strongly present, much less spicy than in neighbouring Thailand, served with the usual dose of rice. The most popular of these curries is amok, which can be seafood, fish, meat or just vegetables, highlighting the mild aroma of spices from which lemongrass, turmeric and ginger stand out. Traditionally this dish is made very slowly, in steam, on a banana leaf. Not as easy to find as a noodle soup, amok served with rice is a delicious option for vegetarians and is more likely to be found in restaurants than in markets.
In Cambodia, vegetarian options are scarcer than in other countries in Southeast Asia, dominating meat, whether fresh or processed in the form of small meatballs whose appearance is far from attractive but which is extremely popular in Cambodia. In the south of the country, given the proximity to the sea, fish and seafood are strongly present, with markets offering a wide variety of products, which is reflected in the dishes and even street snacks.
And as in any Asian country, street food has a strong presence, due to its variety, both in sweets and in snacks, appearing at specific times of the day, often next to markets, schools, or in the busiest streets of cities. They can be small stalls transported on bicycles or compact kitchens coupled to motorcycles.
As in many Southwest Asian countries, it is not difficult to find exotic foods by European standards, and Cambodia seems to offer even more opportunities to find frogs for sale in the markets or grasshoppers fried at a street stall.
Vegetable “amok“… the famous Cambodian curry that most of the times is made with fish, but that can also be ordered in a vegetarian version only with legumes.
A kind of custard, but cooked inside a small pumpkin that after being cooked you can eat the peel; it is served sliced, drizzled with coconut milk, sugar syrup, ice and condensed milk. Very popular in Thailand, it can also be found in Cambodian markets